By Nancy J. Gonzalez
In 2019, BMW opened its first auto assembly facility in Mexico, and San Luis Potosi is now home of BMW’s 3-series automobile. The US$1 billion facility is designed to be flexible; therefore, assembly lines can produce sedans, crossovers, hybrids, and fully battery-electric vehicles. The facility still has a lot of space to accommodate future growth.
In the plant, a team of 600 robots and 2,500 workers manufacture BMW’s 3-series sedans to be driven around the world. This is BMW’s seventh generation of the 3-series.
In 2020, Mexico will supply the global demand for this vehicle, shipping it to more than 40 countries. To do this, BMW has been preparing a strong supply chain and training its personnel to ensure the quality of the vehicle is the same than the one built in Germany.
Antonio Gonzalez, BMW Group purchasing director said the company works closely with its suppliers to ensure quality; therefore, the client will not notice if his or her vehicle was built in Mexico or in Germany. Nowadays, BMW has 431 suppliers to its 3-series models, more than 120 are based in Mexico. Mr. Gonzalez recently shared the insights of this new BMW’s operation in Mexico with MEXICONOW in an exclusive interview.
How was the market’s reception for manufacturing the 3-series sedan in Mexico?
Antonio Gonzalez.- The vehicle is manufactured with the same quality, the same norms, and the same specifications to the ones we build in Germany. For a client, it is imperceptible where the auto was built because the quality is the same. The reception has been very positive, and we are really proud of having the 3-series sedans made in Mexico. The client cannot tell where the vehicle was built because the quality is identical.
Was it hard for BMW to find the right suppliers for this vehicle in Mexico?
We have a long history working with some suppliers in Mexico. We have worked with most of them in the past years. We also have partners that work jointly with our headquarters in Europe and other BMW plants. Most of the suppliers we are working with for this 3-series in Mexico have been working with us for a long time.
We have a few that are new as well. One of every six suppliers for this vehicle is new. We have worked jointly since the beginning of this project and we have identified the risks. It was not a hard task to find the right suppliers. The biggest efforts on this operation were to develop the industrialization and to qualify the locations.
How did BMW adapt this plant to meet the quality that characterizes the company?
We have a state-of-the-art facility. This is the best high-tech facility for BMW now. Evidently, it is built based on a specification. The specification is used to do the request for bids to the suppliers. The suppliers that meet the specification and BMW’s expectation are considered for the process and, at the end, they are nominated. We have an intensive follow-up process to make sure the facility set up is done on time.
We do the same with the components we buy. It is a tender process based in four main components for our nominations: cost, quality, flexibility, and innovation. Based on these four pillars, we do the supplier’s nominations and we work with them. It is a long, and comprehensive process.